Quangos face the axe under Jacob Rees-Mogg’s cost-cutting plan

Quangos such as the DVLA could be shut down or merged under a cost-cutting overhaul of public bodies ordered by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mr Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, has written to Cabinet ministers warning that the cost and number of quangos “continues to increase”.

He has asked each secretary of state to provide a list of government bodies that could be merged or closed, including cases in which their functions “could be provided by organisations other than the state”.

His intervention came ahead of a public bodies “review programme”, which will be launched this week to identify cost savings at individual quangos.

The Treasury had previously told public bodies to slash their costs by five per cent, but The Telegraph understands ministers involved in the review now want to increase that to between 10 and 20 per cent.

‘Public bodies should only exist when there is a pressing need’

In his letter to secretaries of state, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “Necessary public bodies are an important delivery mechanism for the Government. The cost and number of these bodies continues to increase.

“Public bodies should only exist when there is a pressing need, must be accountable to Parliament and be efficient and effective. Please review your public bodies for any that you consider could be provided by organisations other than the state and therefore closed.

“There are other bodies that have duplication in the types of service they provide, often causing confusion to the public. These organisations could well be merged to create a more coherent service for the public, share best practice and reduce cost.”

He asked for ministers to provide  “a list of your public bodies sponsored by your department” and “your proposals to close and merge bodies from that list”, by June 24.

The move comes after Steve Barclay, Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, used an article in The Telegraph in February to pledge that the Government would take “a step back from people’s lives” as it sought to “restore a smaller state” in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Taxpayers’ money should be spent efficiently and on worthwhile areas. It’s right, then, that we should always look at public organisations and whether they are delivering for the British public.”

‘Constantly writing to the DVLA’

One Whitehall source said there had been a “total failure” by the DVLA “to provide the public service it is meant to”. The agency has come under fire for presiding over a huge backlog of licence applications and renewals in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Last week, Mr Rees-Mogg told Bristol Live he was “still constantly writing to the DVLA on behalf of my constituents to get them driving licenses, and we know that the DVLA was simply not working properly with people working from home. That’s very unfair on my constituents.”

MPs’ concerns about Public Health England’s handling of the pandemic led to its closure and replacement with the UK Health Security Agency last year.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has called for little-known bodies such as the Civil Society and Youth Directorate and Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to be ditched. 

The campaign group has said High Speed 2 Ltd, the government-owned firm constructing the HS2 rail line, should be overseen by an independent commission following years of controversy over spiralling costs.

So-called “arms length bodies” such as the DVLA now spend more than £220 billion per year and employ in excess of 300,000 people, according to government figures.

Separately, Mr Rees-Mogg has embarked on a drive to end the work from home culture in the Civil Service. 

On Saturday, Dave Penman, who leads the FDA trade union for civil servants, criticised as “crass and condescending” a note left by the Cabinet Office minister in an empty government office that stated: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”

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